World Children's Day: ‘Jesus forgives everything,’ says Pope

Tens of thousands attended Mass today in St Peter's Square. "The Holy Spirit accompanies us in life" the Holy Father had the children repeated, followed by a Hail Mary and the invitation to pray "above all for peace". Yesterday at Rome’s Olympic Stadium, the pontiff appealed for a “movement of girls and boys who want to build a world of peace”.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis’s homily saw him interact with the boys and girls present for the first World Children's Day (WCD). Delivered off the cuff this morning in St Peter's Square during Mass at 10:30 am, the homily was centred on the theme "Behold, I make all things new”.

Under a blue sky, the Trinity was at the centre of the exchange, with particular attention to the Holy Spirit that “gives life", Jesus’s boundless forgiveness, and the call to pray "above all for peace,” as Italian actor Roberto Benigni noted in his speech at the end of the celebration.

"Do not forget this: Jesus forgives everything. And he always forgives, and we must have the humility to ask for forgiveness. Forgive me Lord, I have made mistakes, I am weak, life has made things difficult for me,” the Holy Father said. Jesus also forgives people "with many sins," as well as "the worst of sinners,” he added.

Francis went on to talk about what the Holy Spirit is, not an easy task. “It's God, it's within us. We receive the Holy Spirit in baptism, we receive him in the sacraments. The Holy Spirit is the one who accompanies us in life."

At the pontiff’s invitation, the girls and boys in St Peter's Square repeated this last part several times. “The Holy Spirit accompanies us in life,” they said in a loud voice. “The Holy Spirit is the one who gives us strength, consoles us amid hardships," Pope Francis added.

Speaking about faith, he said that it “makes us happy.” “We are all happy because we believe," he said, reminding us once more that faith is believing in God, the “Father, Son and Holy Spirit".

Christians also have a "mother," Francis said to the children. “What is the name of our mother in heaven?” After the answer came from the crowd, he asked another question: “Do you know how to pray to Our Lady?” A Hail Mary prayer followed.

At the start of his homily, Francis said: “We are here to pray. Pray together. Pray to God.” At the end, he asked boys and girls to pray for adults.

“Pray for us, so that we may go forward, all of us. Pray for parents, pray for grandparents,” but also for "sick children", some of whom were present at today's event.

The pope urged the faithful to pray "for peace”, that “there may be no wars." This immediately sparked a round of applause.

Francis had also spoken about peace during yesterday's meeting at Rome’s Olympic Stadium, also part of World Children’s Day, in front of tens of thousands of children.

In his greetings, the Holy Father said that the reason for the gathering is to kick off “A movement of girls and boys who want to build a world of peace, where we are all brothers and sisters, a world that has a future, because we want to take care of the environment that surrounds us.”

A series of questions followed. "Are you sad about wars?" "Yes!" replied those present. “Today I met with children who fled Ukraine (from the hospital in Lviv) who have so much pain from wars. Some of them were injured,” Francis said.

In the morning, the Holy Father met other boys and girls from mostly war zones, like Palestine, Belarus, as well as Indonesia. "Is war a nice thing?" "No!" the children replied.

“I like to see you so child-like. You are sad that so many of your peers cannot go to school. Some girls and boys can't go to school."

Speaking about the theme of WCD 2024, Francis said: "Behold, I make all things new". “Think about it: God wants this, everything that is not new passes away. God is newness. The Lord always gives us newness.”